Do professional bakers like receiving cooking tools as gifts?
November 26, 2013 4:56 PM   Subscribe

I have a person that I know fairly well for a secret Santa gift exchange that has a soft 30 dollar cap on it. I have a few routes I can go down, but she's a baker by profession. She works at a grocery store's bakery department, and does some side work for weddings on occasion. For people who work as bakers / cooks, would you want to receive some sort of gift related to this or is that the last thing you want to think about after you're done with work? If no, then what's an awesome ~30 dollar gift that someone could give you?
posted by codacorolla to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would only give someone the tools of their trade if:

-I knew that they didn't have it already
-I knew that is was a useful, good thing because I was very familiar with their line of work.

So, if you are also a serious baker and you know what this person has, tool-wise, then go ahead! If not, don't.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:01 PM on November 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Honestly? Gift Certificate to Fancy Flours.
posted by anastasiav at 5:06 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

It would be a little weird to give her something to use directly for her side work, like a new cake pan or something because
1) she can likely get that stuff at a discount through professional channels and
2) she can definitely deduct the price she pays from her taxes.

If you can think of something she would like that is more fun than useful, like a silly chef's hat or a baking themed kitchen decoration (nb: these are probably bad ideas) then go for it, but otherwise probably get her something else.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 5:10 PM on November 26, 2013

My sister-in-law owns a bakery, though she is not the actual baker, and yeah, I wouldn't go down that path, for the reasons others mentioned, plus the fact that professional baking gear isn't really all the same as home baking gear. Some of it is -- a big metal bowl is a big metal bowl (but in the bakery, they use BIG metal bowls), but a lot of it is more industrial, and meant to be put through hard use and indelicate washing.

Roland Meisner wrote a couple of books about being a pastry chef in the White House, that might appeal to her professional interests without being a tool of her trade.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:30 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

She probably already owns everything she needs for work, and would know better about what she wants than you do because she's an expert. Which is generally the problem with buying anything for someone who is really into X Hobby--they probably own everything about it already.

I know nothing about Fancy Flours, but the gift certificate idea sounds like a good one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:44 PM on November 26, 2013

My husband is a chef, and while he likes presents, I don't think he really wants any work related stuff. He has tons, and he gets a pro discount. Buy her something for herself.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:09 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think a food related book (not cookbook) sounds like a fantastic present!
posted by missriss89 at 7:24 PM on November 26, 2013

I am not a chef, I am an advanced home baker who has worked in kitchens, and my brother is a chef.

I would be extremely careful if I was going down this road for a couple of reasons:

1) Most things you can buy a proper kitchen will have, and likely will have better version of it, that the cook is more familiar with

2) Many cooks are reluctant to use anything of theirs in a kitchen beyond their own knives because kitchen equipment tends to get used, abused and wrecked in no short order, and you can't really tell someone else not yo use "your" peeler.

3) It's something else they have to bring in carry around with them, and

4) it's another thing to keep a track of and things tend to go missing in kitchens a lot, boss asserts it's their equipment etc.

Unless you know there is a specific, and small thing they have in mind, or they want something for home (i.e maybe they have it at work think it's great would like one of their own), I wouldn't do it.
posted by smoke at 7:28 PM on November 26, 2013

I pretty much fit the description of the person you're buying for. Personally, I would not want to receive any equipment/tools mostly because either I already have them or unless they are coming from someone in the same profession, they're likely not to be of my preferred quality.

Some thing I absolutely would love receiving though would be some lovely baking and/or cake decorating books, since I always flip through them at bookstores but for whatever reason can't bring myself to purchase them just for home. A few books that I've been eyeing are the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, the ones for Miette and Tartine, Bouchon Bakery and Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes. Most of the pastry chefs and bakers I know personally would love any of these books and I suspect that if your friend does side work for weddings willingly, then she would probably enjoy a book of this nature too.
posted by pandalicious at 9:58 PM on November 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Would you buy a judge a gavel? A traffic engineer a stop sign? A doctor a syringe? A sailor an anchor? A sales clerk a cash register? A flight attendant a drink cart? A mechanic a wrench? A soldier a rifle? A biologist a centrifuge? A physicist a laser? A singer a tongue?

Maybe some fleur de sel could be apt.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:48 PM on November 26, 2013

I know a reasonably famous baker here in the UK via a friend. Getting him a tool would be a risk.

For most professionals the world divides into things they already have and things they won't use. The number of things they would use but don't have is very small. The number of things they don't have but would use which are under $30 is tiny.

That said, the baker I know is fanatical about bread and collects authentic, groundbreaking books on baking from around the world as inspiration for his work. So that's an idea.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:53 PM on November 26, 2013

While I'm not a chef, I'm a professional computer geek and I also do it a bit as a hobby. I have to say that someone giving me computer parts would likely be received poorly (and I'm a bad gift recipient to start). I'm... particular about what I want. At the same point, I realize that I'm not particular in some universal computer geek way, and as such wouldn't try pick out hardware for another (I.E. you can't just go to the commercial cooking supply place and get a recommendation from them). Everyone will have certain brands that they've been burned by / don't like; even if they're universally well regarded. Everyone will have certain aspects of the hobby that they dislike; so perhaps that thing they don't have is absent by design instead of being a great gift idea.

I think that this advice of "no" can be generalized to getting a gift for anyone's profession, side job, or hobby. Unless you have spoken with them about exactly what they would want (item number/sku, color, any side-options, and possibly even *where* to get it (to support a particular company, or to get the best bargain)), just don't.
posted by nobeagle at 6:33 AM on November 27, 2013

Something renewable might be a good way to go. A collection of different colors of sanding sugars for cookies is something I'd love to get. Williams Sonoma has sugars in a myriad of colors that stack for easy storage, but are sold individually.

Hint: clear sanding sugar is always, always welcome!
posted by citygirl at 8:12 AM on November 27, 2013

Huh. Well, I used to bake professionally, and I think it wholly depends on the type of person/baker she is.

Some people are really, really into it. I'd work a ten hour shift (I was the only scaler and the lead bencher), go home still coated in flour, and I'd bake most nights! When you like to bake, you like to bake, and the perfect way for me to unwind after a grueling shift was to play in my own kitchen, doing my own thing. There's very little time to do your own experimenting in a bakery.

If my friends had bought me the goods, I'd have been over the moon. I was killing myself for $8/hour, no benefits, so... Yeah! My wishlist would have included a banneton (aka brotform; it's an expensive little basket ~$30 that helps the loaf keep its shape during proofing), a baking couche (pronounced KOOSH; those act as loose forms so that when you're making baguettes, they keep their shape during the proofing process), and finally, and very importantly, a proper lame because a knife cannot do the same thing a lame can do, and a successful loaf relies heavily on properly venting the steam.

But, you know, that's for bread. If she's doing pastry, that'll be another story. If she's expressed an interest in bread though, I'd go with the banneton and lame. It's a great start, and hey, she'll make you bread.
posted by heyho at 6:11 PM on November 27, 2013

Lames are also good because they need to be replaced periodically.
posted by smoke at 6:25 PM on November 27, 2013

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